This last week has been one of the most violent and tragic weeks I have seen in my police service. The violence and the loss of young lives has scarred families and communities across the region and specifically in parts of Birmingham. My thoughts are foremost to the families suffering this huge loss.
Chief Constable David Thompson
We have seen six murders over the last two weeks. It is important to say these are very varied and the offending, while having tragic results, did not in most of these cases bring danger to the streets or a broader public threat. The number has simply been chance and has some very specific circumstances.
The murders of Sidali Mohammed, Abdullah Muhammad and Hazat Umar are very different. They are part of a broader picture of violent knife crimes involving young people we have seen in Birmingham, our region and indeed in many of our cities across the country. I am sure parents and young people have been very scared by these events.
While these matters are pending proceedings or under investigation they involve very different circumstances and are not connected investigations. Unfortunately the link between them relates directly to a problem with young men who are prepared to carry knives and use them with no regard to the risks.
It is a mistake to see this as a gang issue. We do of course see violence and knives used between gangs which we will target and some of this around robbery, but this is a much more problematic issue. Lots of these cases are simple fights that would have been once solved with fists but today resort to knives. There are often no hotspots to police or obvious groups of offenders to target. We have also seen a shift in the weapons. As well as kitchen-type knives we are seeing the use of combat or martial arts type weapons.
For our young people, their families and communities we need to stop this emergency quickly. Without always specific areas or people to target that means some blunt action to prevent violence. This is what we will do.
These serious cases are receiving intensive investigation and we will aim to bring offenders to justice. Detectives are working flat out.
The public will have seen an uplift in police numbers in parts of Birmingham. That will continue and the officers have been given extensive search powers where we can search to prevent violence without needing suspicion of weapon carriage. We will use this tool very intensively now. It will upset some innocent young people but I fear the carriage of weapons in the current environment is growing, often through fear, and we can take no chances.
I cannot accurately pinpoint who carries a knife. I ask for the support of the public and young people as we do this. This will not be a short term response. Violence builds into the summer months and we will need to apply intensive pressure for a sustained period. We will be firm but courteous.
However Birmingham is a city where half the population is under 25 and our force polices the youngest population region in the country. We will never be able to search or arrest our way out of this crisis. So there is help that we need.
I ask parents to have a conversation with their children, check their rooms and take an active interest in where your children are and who they are with. If you spot trouble ask the police or local authority for help. I do not want to arrest young people if we can avoid this. If parents do not keep a careful eye on children then we will intervene. I intend officers to take into police protection young people who are in need of safeguarding. Too many children wander our streets without the right protection and if that cannot be provided by parents we will take them to children’s services so safeguarding action can be taken.
To young people I would say, arguments and disagreements build on social media or are overheard on the bus and in the classroom. We need you to play a part in telling someone if a fight or trouble is brewing or if you hear someone has a knife. If it is a friend, act like one and tell them to stop or tell an adult. If you are scared of someone the answer is not to carry a knife. If you know of groups who do tell us or www.fearless.org as we can keep it confidential. We need to target the people who make you feel unsafe. You have to be part of the solution to this problem.
Longer term we are building on the work we already do through with the Police and Crime Commissioner and our public health approach to violence. There are some real successes in the work with schools and young people and this needs to continue.
These long term solutions are vital because as your Chief Constable I can intervene in the behaviour and bring offenders to justice. I cannot explain or control the reasons why young men act in such a violent way without any regard to those they harm or their own future. They clearly need to see a meaningful future or feel they are risking something if they are to look beyond the incivilities or conflicts of today. I cannot fix that.
None of these comments apply to Sidali Mohammed, Abdullah Muhammad and Hazat Umar. Be under no illusions these were decent young men with futures that have been robbed by the violence of others. As a parent it makes me sick and the force and I intend to do everything we can to stop this.
The police will take on this challenge but every one of us owns this problem.